Election flier assailed

November 08, 1994|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,Sun Staff Writer

A group of interfaith leaders yesterday accused the so-called Christian right of trying to impose a "religious litmus test" on today's election with a flier listing candidates' religions in Baltimore County's northwestern legislative and county council districts.

Calling the flier "blatant anti-Semitism," Rabbi Joel H. Zaiman, president of the Baltimore Jewish Council, said the flier was mailed to thousands of homes in predominantly non-Jewish areas of the 3rd council and 11th legislative districts, which sprawl across western and northwestern Baltimore County.

At a news conference at Chizuk Amuno Congregation in Stevenson, the Rev. Herbert D. Valentine of the Presbyterian Church USA and chairman of the board of the Interfaith Alliance, said the flier "has gone beyond the pale" because it brings religion into the electoral campaign.

Dr. Valentine said the Alliance was formed nationally in July to counter the activities of the so-called Christian right and the Christian Coalition.

Although the interfaith leaders produced no evidence linking this flier to the religious right, sending such fliers just before an election is a favorite tactic that the right employs to scare voters, he said. Such activity is only a taste of things to come, Dr. Valentine warned. Maryland has been spared the worst excesses of the religious right compared with other states in the current campaign but will be part of a nationwide effort when the 1996 president campaign begins, he said.

The flier had only the name of the Know Your Candidate Committee and listed the candidates for the General Assembly and County Council by name, age, profession, residence -- and religion.

The Towson man listed with postal authorities as the committee representative was not at home and did not respond to telephone messages.

State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli said he checked the flier yesterday after receiving complaints over the weekend. He concluded that it meets legal requirements and said that unlike other campaign literature, it does not require that an individual's name be listed because the flier does not urge the election of a particular candidate.

Legal or not, the flier is "insidious and dangerous," said Bishop George Paul Mocko, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

"It is not a question of religion but a fascist virus," said Matthew McNaught, of the Towson Unitarian and Universalist Church. He deplored a time "when fascism can speak in the name of Christianity."

The flier urges, "Remember to get out and vote for the candidate that will best represent you and your community."

"It may appear very subtle but it's pretty blatant," said Del. Kenneth C. Montague Jr., of the city's 44th District. " 'Community' could mean several things, your residential community or your community of faith. But it's clear what the intent is," he said.

"This a very carefully calculated misrepresentation in its entirety," said the Rev. W. James Favorite, president of the Coalition of Concerned African-American Organizations of Baltimore County.

Cardinal-designate Archbishop William H. Keeler and the Maryland Catholic Conference issued statements decrying attempts to inject religion into the political campaign as bigoted and discriminatory.

Sally Robinson, spokeswoman for the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, the Rev. Edward H. Heim of the Lutheran Office on Public Policy and the Rev. J. Leland Mebust of the Ascension Evangelical Lutheran Church of Towson, added their denunciations of the flier.

Ms. Robinson called it "a blatant appeal to tribalism, to keeping out 'people who are not like us.' "

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